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In this tutorial we will learn how to make some stylized 3D text that I am calling Rocky text because when it is grey it reminds me of cracked rock and I don’t know what else to call it…

Anyway, in this tutorial we will learn a few different things. The first is how to distress your own type, turn it into a 3-dimensional shape and apply some hand drawn styling to it. I hope you enjoy!

Step 1: Go ahead and set up your art board to whatever dimensions you want. Select your Type tool (T) and type out your message. The font I used for this example is called sansblack.


Step 2: After you have typed out the text you want to use, go ahead and line it up so that you more or less are creating a square. You can line up the text however you want, but for the sake of this tutorial, we are going to go with a blocky design. Go ahead and bring out the guides if you need to so that you can see that they are lined up well enough.


Step 3:Once you are satisfied with your text placement. Select all of the text (ctrl + A) and go to Type > Create Outlines.

Step 4: Now we are going to distress the type a little bit using grungy elements that we will create ourselves. You could just download some free grunge elements from somewhere and skip the following steps, but what’s the fun in that?


Step 5: Go ahead and draw some random shapes, I chose to go with just a couple of circles and ovals.


Step 5A – side note: If you are going to overlap a couple of shapes, make sure that you go ahead and make them one shape by adding them together. Select both of the shapes you would like to combine and in your Pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder or Shift + Ctrl + F9) click on the “Add to Shape” button. After than click “Expand” right there in the Pathfinder. Repeat for any objects you have overlapping.



Step 6: For each of the shapes we will experiment with different types of distortion. Select one of your shapes and go to: Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. The amounts you choose will be up to your shape and preference, so click on the preview and play around with the settings until you are satisfied. Once you are happy click on OK.


Step 7: With your newly distorted shape selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance. This will expand your shape to prepare it for later steps.


Step 8: Go ahead and select another one of your shapes (choose a simple one) and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat. Go ahead and give it just a little bit of a bloat. Test it out for yourself, but I put mine at 34% bloat. After you are happy with it, go ahead and expand that shape (Object > Expand Appearance).

Step 9: With the same shape you just did the Bloat to, go back to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Your settings will depend on your shape and how much you want to roughen it up. Go ahead and play with both of the sliders until you are happy. Make sure to expand the appearance once you are done.

Step 10: Repeat the bloat or roughen steps on all of your shapes until they are all nice and warped.


Step 11: Now we are going to use these shapes to distort our text. The first thing I did to help is to change the color of the text to a light grey, but you can use whatever color you want. Then you will want to move -A COPY- of one of your shapes onto the text. To move a copy of the object, select the object and hold down your Alt key while you drag it. When you hold down the key, you should have a double arrow that indicates you are moving a copy of the object and not the original. You could just as easily copy and paste the object, but moving a copy is much faster.


Step 12: Using our shapes we are going to cut away the text. To do this, you will want to select both the text and the distorted object (making sure the distorted object is above the text). Either use your selection tool (V) or click one object, then shift + click the other. While both the text and object are still selected, open you pathfinder (window > pathfinder or Shift + Ctrl + F9) and hit “Subtract from Shape Area”. After that, make sure you hit the Expand button.

Step 13: Now it looks like we have a little bite taken out of our letter. Go ahead and repeat this step as many times as you want making sure you roughen up the text as needed. Note: When you expand after using the pathfinder, you may find that your letters move forward in the hierarchy of your artboard. To move them back to the back, simply hit Shift + Ctrl + [


Step 14: Once you are satisfied with the number of chunks taken out of your text, we can move on to giving it some depth.


Step 15: The first thing you will want to do is select all of the text and group it together (ctrl + G or Object > Group). With the text all grouped and selected, go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. You’ll want to play around with the settings until you have it the way you want, but above is what I used for this tutorial.

Step 16: If you are satisfied with the way the 3D looks, go ahead and expand the appearance by going to Object > Expand Appearance. With the text still selected, go ahead and ungroup it all by going to Object > Ungroup or Ctrl + Shift + G. Make sure you keep hitting ungroup until there is nothing grouped (it may take 4 or 5 times of hitting the ungroup).


Step 17: Now you will want to select all of the front facing letterforms. Do this by selecting the first one and then shift + click all the rest of them until they are all selected. Once you have them all selected, group them together (ctrl + G) to make it easier to work with.


Step 18: Now we will switch the selection from the front letters to the rest of the text created by the 3D effect. To do this, make sure that you don’t have anything else on the artboard, and with your front letters selected, go to Select > Inverse. This should select everything else on the artboard except for your front letters. Go ahead and group those together as well to make it easier to work with.


Step 19: Now we are going to choose our colors. Select the front facing letters and choose both a fill and stroke color. For my fill I chose a light grey #C9C9C9 and the stroke a darker grey #7C7C7C. I also chose to change the brush to a rough style brush. For ease of use, the one I used comes with Illustrator, which you should be able to find by opening your Brushes window (Window > Brushes). Click on the little arrow in the upper right to bring up the options and go to Open Brush Library and select “Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil”. The brush I am using here is the thin one tagged “Charcoal – Pencil”. Also, depending on how large your artboard is, you may want to lower the stroke size down so it isn’t super pronounced.

Step 20: Now you will select the rest of the text (the bits in the back that make up the 3D effect) and change their colors to the opposite of what you have your main text as. To do this, either use the eyedropper tool to select it from the front text and the switch the fill/stroke or manually type it in (I used #7C7C7C for the fill and #C9C9C9 for the stroke). Select the same stroke brush as you did in the previous step.

Optional Step 21: We’ll give a texture to the front letters. Select your top text (actual letters) and make a copy (ctrl + c) and paste it in front (ctrl + F). Go to Effect > Pixelate > Mezzotint. On the drop down box, select “short strokes”.

Optional Step 22: Switch the mode to Multiply and set the opacity down to something real low, like 10.

And there you have it, you are done. Hope you enjoyed.



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